But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!”

But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!”

John 6:17-20 As darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, his disciples got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” Mark 6:51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped.

Sieder Köder, Storm at Sea. Thanks, Elaine!

With a passenger, a man rode his motorcycle on a highway near a town about an hour from Bogotá, Colombia last week. His passenger had a seizure, which threw the motorcycle off course, hitting two cyclists. Three people stopped to help the four victims of the accident, lying on the road in varying states of injury.

A drunk driver came along and hit all of them. As I write this, three are dead, three are critically injured, and one has more minor injuries. The drunk man, it turns out, is not a customary drinker. He had been drinking because he lost his father and his uncle to Covid the same week. Further, he is related to two of his victims.

Where, you may be asking, is the “But God” in this story?

A close friend of my sister Jan’s, a Colombian who now lives in Mexico, is also a relative of the drunk driver and two family members involved in the accident. She offered to pray with anyone from the extended family, their friends, and their neighbors, all of them reeling from this accident. The first call extended to another, so that now Jan’s friend is praying with them at 6:00 p.m. daily, via Zoom from Mexico, communicating Jesus’ words every day: “Don’t be afraid. I am here!”

Horrible things happen, as unexpected and unmanageable as a storm at sea. “I am here. We can face this together.” This message bookends the Gospels, from the angel telling Joseph to name his son Immanuel, “God with us,” to Jesus’s last words, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 1:23, 28:20). I don’t say any of this lightly–you know I don’t. In my own life, healing has come when I’ve been able to “see” Jesus with me, even in the valley of death. Not a bandaid; a profound release, one traumatic memory at a time.

G. K. Chesterton said, “There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally.” Jesus wants us to know he is with us even in the darkest times. Often he does that through the presence of a friend, through physical touch. But it can happen even through Zoom.

From wherever you are, you can pray for this family and their neighbors. And for my sister’s friend in Mexico, who is turning her own grief into an extension of care across cyberspace.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me (Psalm 23:4).